David A. Horowitz
Date of Award
Master of Arts (M.A.) in History
The struggles for racial equality throughout northern cities during the late-1960s, while not nearly as prevalent within historical scholarship as those pertaining to the Deep South, have left an indelible mark on both the individuals and communities involved. Historians have until recently thought of the civil rights movement in the north as a violent betrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision of an inclusive and integrated society, as well as coinciding with the rise, and subsequent decline, of Black Power. But despite such suppositions, the experiences of northern cities immersed in the civil rights struggle were far more varied and nuanced. The explosion of racial violence throughout American cities in the late-1960s bred fear among many in the white political establishment who viewed the cultural shifts inherent in racial equality as threatening to undermine their traditional racial dominance. Partially the result of feelings of increased powerlessness, and partially in an effort of self-preservation, many in the ranks of government and law enforcement worked to oppose the seismic changes underfoot. This thesis makes a concerted effort to examine and evaluate the role that race played in the Albina community of Portland, Oregon in the late-1960s, with a particular emphasis on the motivations, impact, and legacy of two racial disturbances that occurred there in the summers of 1967 and 1969. It asserts that while racial prejudice and bigotry were certainly prevalent among members of both the city's political and law enforcement community, and did play a significant role in the deterioration of their relationship with the black community, there were many other factors that also contributed to the police-community discord in late-1960s Albina. Moreover, it asserts that the reactions of the white and African-American communities to the disturbances were, contrary to conventional wisdom, not monolithic, but rather diverse and wide-ranging. The goal of this narrative history is not merely to analyze the racial unrest and public response to the disturbances, but also to integrate and link the experiences of Portland's African-Americans into the broader dialogue of the civil rights movement of the late-1960s. In short, the study of late-1960s Portland allows us to reach a greater understanding of racial inequality in America during this period.
Bryan, Joshua Joe, "Portland, Oregon's Long Hot Summers: Racial Unrest and Public Response, 1967 - 1969" (2013). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 995.